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Wind Regimes along the Beaufort Sea Coast Favorable for Strong Wind Events at Tuktoyaktuk

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  • 1 Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
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Abstract

The community of Tuktoyaktuk (Northwest Territories, Canada) along the Beaufort Sea experiences dramatic shoreline erosion during storm surge events that tend to occur during persistent northwesterly wind events in the late summer months (July–September) when the sea ice coverage of the Beaufort Sea reaches its annual minimum. This study compiles the climatology of hourly surface wind, low-level geostrophic wind, and static stability to investigate the physical mechanisms responsible for the high frequency of northwesterly winds observed at Tuktoyaktuk during the late summer. The results link the prevalence of westerly to northwesterly winds at the surface to the high frequency of northwesterly geostrophic winds and a tendency for low static stability. With an environment that favors strong northwesterly geostrophic wind and suggests lower static stability, the high frequency of strong northwesterlies observed at the surface appears to be associated with momentum mixing by turbulent eddies. A composite analysis indicates that persistently strong northwesterly winds are associated with anomalously low pressure northeast of Tuktoyaktuk and high pressure over the Bering Sea and eastern Siberia. The high pressure anomalies over the Bering Sea also extend well to the east along the northern edge of the Brooks Range. An apparent topographic modification of the sea level pressure (SLP) field by cold air trapped to the north of mountains produces the pressure gradient favorable for strong westerly to northwesterly geostrophic winds at Tuktoyaktuk. The results suggest that cold-air damming contributes to the wind regime at Tuktoyaktuk by altering the pressure gradient along the Beaufort coast.

Corresponding author address: David Small, Dept. of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, McGill University, Rm. 945, Burnside Hall, 805 Sherbrooke St. West, Montreal, QC H3A 2K6, Canada. E-mail: david.small2@mail.mcgill.ca

Abstract

The community of Tuktoyaktuk (Northwest Territories, Canada) along the Beaufort Sea experiences dramatic shoreline erosion during storm surge events that tend to occur during persistent northwesterly wind events in the late summer months (July–September) when the sea ice coverage of the Beaufort Sea reaches its annual minimum. This study compiles the climatology of hourly surface wind, low-level geostrophic wind, and static stability to investigate the physical mechanisms responsible for the high frequency of northwesterly winds observed at Tuktoyaktuk during the late summer. The results link the prevalence of westerly to northwesterly winds at the surface to the high frequency of northwesterly geostrophic winds and a tendency for low static stability. With an environment that favors strong northwesterly geostrophic wind and suggests lower static stability, the high frequency of strong northwesterlies observed at the surface appears to be associated with momentum mixing by turbulent eddies. A composite analysis indicates that persistently strong northwesterly winds are associated with anomalously low pressure northeast of Tuktoyaktuk and high pressure over the Bering Sea and eastern Siberia. The high pressure anomalies over the Bering Sea also extend well to the east along the northern edge of the Brooks Range. An apparent topographic modification of the sea level pressure (SLP) field by cold air trapped to the north of mountains produces the pressure gradient favorable for strong westerly to northwesterly geostrophic winds at Tuktoyaktuk. The results suggest that cold-air damming contributes to the wind regime at Tuktoyaktuk by altering the pressure gradient along the Beaufort coast.

Corresponding author address: David Small, Dept. of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, McGill University, Rm. 945, Burnside Hall, 805 Sherbrooke St. West, Montreal, QC H3A 2K6, Canada. E-mail: david.small2@mail.mcgill.ca
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